All about California's Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel projects

06/30/2020, Miscellaneous, Guardianship/Conservatorship of Adults - Protected Person

UPDATE: Shriver 2020 data released


The Shriver projects have released their latest report.  Some of the key findings:


  • Across the pilots, 67 percent of cases were settled, 3 percent resolved via trial, and 8 percent ended by default, compared to non-Shriver cases where 34 percent were settled, 14 percent resolved via trial, and 26 percent ended by default.
  • For guardianship cases, 86% of those represented were able to successfully petition for guardianship, compared to only 14% of pro se litigants.  And more than half of represented cases ended within 60 days, compared to only about 1/3 of pro se cases.


There's a concise fact sheet on the results of the probate guardianship representation project.


Data analyst NPC Research released a report taking another look at the data. 


UPDATE: Shriver funding doubled!

AB 330, enacted in 2019, increased the funding for the Shriver projects by almost twofold.


UPDATE: Report on Shriver projects shows may positive results of representation


On July 28, 2017, the first report on the Shriver projects was released (check out the California Judicial Council's press release and a brief story in SFGate), and the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a third round of 3-year grants totaling $7.2 million.

Update: Shriver "pilots" are now permanent projects


The Shriver pilots were originally set to sunset after six years.  However, in June 2016 the Governor signed legislation making the Shriver pilots permanent.



In October 2009, the Governor signed the "Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act", which created pilot programs (Cal.Gov.Code § 68650) for the right to counsel in cases affecting basic human needs (such as domestic violence, deprivation of child custody, housing, and elder abuse). The bill's findings stated that "Due to insufficient funding from all sources, existing programs providing free services in civil matters to indigent and disadvantaged persons, especially underserved groups such as elderly, disabled, children, and non-English-speaking persons, are not adequate to meet existing needs."  It then stated that "Legal counsel shall be appointed to represent low-income parties in civil matters involving critical issues affecting basic human needs in those specified courts selected by the Judicial Council as provided in this section."


The pilots, which cover housing, custody, and guardianship in eight different sites, began operation in 2012 and were subsequently featured in a New York Times article about the civil right to counsel movement.

To see more about the pilots, check out the NCCRC's comprehensive bibliography section.